Lush makes 30-second soap

The soap and cosmetics retailer Lush has developed a soap that dissolves after 30 seconds of use to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. It has partnered with Deliveroo, one of the largest food delivery companies in the UAE, to distribute the soap to customers with all of its meal orders.

The company developed the soap to encourage hand-washing based on the World Health Organization’s guidelines for stopping the spread of Covid-19, giving both a practical solution and a demonstration of how long 30 seconds of hand-washing actually lasts.

The brand promoted the soap through its social channels and an online video, and customers can request the soap to be sent directly to them via the microsite 30secondsoap.com. Lush is also including the soap in the delivery of all orders made on its website.

16,000 soaps had been distributed by 12 June, with 27,000 requests submitted through the website from people around the world. The company is now working on a second batch for distribution in the UAE and looking to expand the initiative further across the region into Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudia Arabia.

Why it’s Hot:
This product release is smart for several distinct reasons:
  1. It’s a product innovation that comes directly out of a current need, making Lush feel relevant and in touch with today’s consumers.
  2. It educates people on the amount of time they need to wash their hands, positioning Lush as an expert in personal care.
  3. It allows for at-home sampling of Lush products, something that isn’t currently possible due to COVID-19.

Hanifa puts on a virtual 3D fashion show

Anifa Mvuemba, founder of DTC fashion label Hanifa, was looking forward to holding her first runway show at New York Fashion Week this year. But when the coronavirus torpedoed those plans, she came up with a new way to unveil her latest designs to the world.

In May, she held a virtual fashion show, streamed over Instagram Live, in which each garment appeared in 3D against a black backdrop, as if worn by invisible models strutting across a catwalk, the garment hugging every curve. Tens of thousands of Hanifa’s quarter of a million followers tuned in.

The Instagram show was striking and also slightly eerie, since the garments looked like they were being worn by a parade of ghosts. But without the distraction of a backdrop or of live humans wearing the outfits, it was easier to take in every detail of the clothing. And at a time when social distancing has made the traditional fashion show impossible, Mvuemba’s high-tech approach allowed her to create buzz around her new collection and gather preorders. Thanks to the show, she says she’s likely to grow her business this year despite the recession.

Mvuemba had been tinkering with the idea for a 3D fashion show months before the pandemic arrived. She was intrigued by the realistic 3D animation that began appearing in movies and was curious about how she could apply this to fashion. Three years ago, she hired a developer who works with CAD and animation software to help her with her design work. During the pandemic, she found she had more time to play with the technology herself, especially since she had to do photoshoots remotely. This gave her the idea of creating an entire 3D fashion show.

Over the last eight years, Mvuemba has grown her direct-to-consumer brand entirely through social media and without a brick-and-mortar presence. (She was about to open her first-ever store in Baltimore this year, but those plans have been put on hold due to the pandemic.) And she’s never had a real runway show. “I think it’s hard for many black designers to make it in the system,” she says. “To make it, you have to know the right people and be in the right places. I decided to just do things my own way.”

When it came to her fans, many thought the show was groundbreaking and thrilling to watch, but some had hesitations. Some pointed out that Mvuemba is among a small group of designers that almost exclusively use black models. Transitioning to 3D shows might make her less inclined to tap these models in the future. While she notes it’s a “valid concern,” she says she’ll never “exclusively use technology to replace people. I like working with real models too much.”

Why it’s Hot:

This is such a perfect example of necessity breeding innovation. We’re increasingly seeing that businesses who are able to find innovative solutions to their challenges during COVID are uniquely positioned to succeed both now and in the future.

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Custom webcam system lets you take Zoom calls on your TV

Crestron, which offers services to help people customize their smart homes, has teamed up with Logitech and Zoom to make an at-home video conferencing setup using technology you’d typically find in an office conference room.

The setup could, for example, let you use your living room TV and a conference room-quality video camera to take Zoom meetings while reclining on your couch instead of being hunched over a laptop. That could be a much more comfortable way to take meetings or host group calls with family and friends while at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The setup, called Crestron HomeTime, doesn’t require a specialized TV — it should work with any TV with an HDMI portHomeTime also takes advantage of the Zoom Rooms software, which is typically used in enterprises to help start and manage Zoom calls in conference rooms.

You’ll be able to start Zoom meetings using your HomeTime setup right from the remote or using the Zoom Rooms app – but it won’t be cheap. The standard cost for a single-room setup is $6,100, and tacking on additional rooms costs $3,100 each, according to the company. HomeTime will be available on Monday, June 1st.

Why it’s Hot:

With so much of life taking place over video conferencing, it makes sense that someone  came up with a solution that won’t involve everyone hunched over on a laptop. While this wildly expensive option won’t be for everyone, it feels likely that other companies will be scrambling to come up with similar, more wallet-friendly options.

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Facebook launches Shops

Facebook is making a major new push into e-commerce. The company recently announced the launch of Shops, a way for businesses to set up free storefronts on Facebook and Instagram. The shops, which will be powered by third-party services, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo, are designed to turn the social network into a top-tier shopping destination.

In a live stream, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said expanded e-commerce would be important to begin rebuilding the economy while the pandemic continues. “If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.”

The launch of Shops comes as stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to record sales for e-commerce companies. The pandemic has also been devastating for small businesses, with a third of them reporting that they have stopped operating in a survey conducted by Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable. An additional 11 percent say they could fail within the next three months if the current situation continues.

But online sales have been a bright spot for small businesses. At Etsy, where solo entrepreneurs have leaned hard into knitting fabric face masks and baking pastries for sale, revenue has doubled from three years ago. Facebook is betting that bringing more local businesses online will help them to endure while also creating big new business opportunities for Facebook itself.

While Shops are free to create, they could create significant new business opportunities for Facebook in advertising, payments, and other services. Businesses will be able to buy ads for their Shops, and when people use Facebook’s checkout option, it charges them a fee.

Businesses can handle customer support issues through Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Eventually, the company plans to let you browse store catalogs and make purchases directly from the chat window. It also plans to enable shopping from live streams, allowing brands and creators to tag items from their Facebook catalogs so that they appear on the bottom of live videos.

Facebook is also working to integrate loyalty programs with shops. “You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards,” the company said in a blog post. “And we’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”

Shops will begin rolling out on Facebook today in the United States and are coming to Instagram sometime this summer. Instagram will showcase brands on its existing shop account, which already highlights items that are available for purchase. Later in the year, it plans to add a dedicated shopping tab to its navigation bar.

Why it’s Hot

This is a really smart move for Facebook. With small businesses across the country struggling to flex into e-commerce, Facebook stands to earn a lot of money (and even potentially good will) with this new feature. Plus, for small businesses – who often operate with very minimal staffing – having customer service, advertising, and sales all in one ecosystem will make the entire move to e-commerce a bit more manageable.

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Billie Confronts Negative Self-Talk on Video Conferences

While working from home has allowed many of us to forego parts of our morning beauty routines, it can still be hard to shake the feeling that we’re not meeting those ever-elusive beauty standards, especially for women. That’s what direct-to-consumer shaving brand Billie aims to highlight—and debunk—in its new spot “Are We Doing Video?” released this week.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAFoqK1jSGw/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=embed_video_watch_again

The idea for the spot came after Billie co-founder Georgina Gooley noticed that every work from home Zoom meeting began with the same chorus of apologies. Part of that comes from being “face-to-face with your own face, so much more often than you would be if you were just working in a normal office,” she said. But it also speaks to a much bigger issue: that women find their failure to meet societal standards for beauty offensive enough to apologize for.

Gooley also pointed out the irony in people’s reticence to turn on their video during a chat. “The person on the other side really doesn’t care what you look like,” she said. “They’re just happy to see someone during this time.”

Doing all the campaign’s shoots over Zoom allowed for some unique opportunities. For example, the spot includes participants filming from their homes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Spain and Russia. To try to capture a more natural interaction between people, the director asked actors to recruit their friends to join the calls, so rather than having actors simulate a friend group or work team in a Zoom call, they were filming real family and friend groups chatting.

Calling out the unfairness and inconsistency of feminine beauty standards is something that’s been part of Billie’s DNA from the beginning. The brand launched in 2017 with the message that it wanted to offer a product that provided a way for women to get high-quality shaving products without the “pink tax,” which is a markup on women’s products just because they’re women’s products.

In 2018, one of the brand’s ads showing women with—gasp—actual body hair was flagged on Facebook as “adult material.” The groundbreaking goal of those ads was to frame shaving as something that women can choose to do or not, rather than something that’s a baseline requirement of femininity. “I think you’ll always see us really challenging the way women are sometimes pigeon-holed into having to look a certain way,” said Gooley.

Why it’s Hot:

As we see brands struggling to find their footing during the pandemic, it’s refreshing to see an ad that works and doesn’t begin with “in these unprecedented times.” Unlike many other companies who have tried to shift messaging during COVID to appear more relevant and sensitive, this spot doesn’t feel like a departure for Billie – it’s intrinsically linked to how they’ve always portrayed themselves, which is why it works.

As we continue to navigate advertising during COVID, it’s important for brands to remain grounded in what’s at the core of their brand.

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Self care as a video game

What if there were something that could help snap you out of your rut, be it a temporary funk or actual, clinical depression? And what if this something were designed to make doing good things for yourself as addictive as a video game? That’s the premise of The Guardians: Unite the Realms, a new app developed by the Affective Computing group at MIT Media Lab.

Out now for iOS and Android, it’s a free game, modeled after character collection games like Pokémon and Skylanders (though without any fighting). Instead of urging you to spend money on microtransactions as most of these games do, The Guardians urges you to spend effort on yourself. If you want to progress in the game, you have to invest in your own well-being.

The data shows that people who are depressed don’t want to use self-improvement apps (only about 3% will complete a regimen in these apps). At the same time, people with severe depression still play games as much as people who aren’t experiencing depression, making gaming a promising avenue for introducing mental health interventions.

Over years of both formal study and informal play-testing in the lab, lead platforms engineer at the Affective Computing group and game director for the Guardians Project Craig Ferguson morphed the app into what it is today – a fantasy land filled with magical animals that attempt to take their world back from an evil villain. Last September, he got tired of the research and started thinking about releasing something—even something still unproven—to help people battling depression. Then with COVID-19 trapping so many of us at home, he made the choice to publicize what was done.

That release, while a fraction of what the game will be in the future, he says, can still take months to complete, and it’s presented with as much glitzy animation and character design as you’d find in any high-end mobile app.

When you load the game, a big button glows and bounces in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, reading “new adventure available.” This is essentially a good-for-you button, because each adventure is focused around the phenomenon of “behavioral activation.” Behavioral activation is a proven therapy that can be used casually or clinically for depression. It gets people to partake in positive experiences rather than spending time doing the things that reinforce their own damaging behaviors. And there are dozens of options to choose from.

Some suggested adventures are practical, such as knocking things off your to-do list that might otherwise cause anxiety: Manage finances. Vacuum. Do Laundry. Others help you grow: Watch an online class. Write a poem. Read a classic. And others help you stay active: Spend time in nature. Learn a new dance. Or, my personal favorite, Jazzercise for 20 minutes. You are also completely free to make up your own adventure, and repeat it whenever you’d like.

Why it’s Hot:

With so much content promoting self care and wellness during shelter-in-place, wellness can begin to feel like a chore. This is especially true for people who struggle with depression, where even small tasks can feel unmanageable. This app helps to make those small tasks fun and purposeful (albeit in an imaginary game). With a mental health crisis looming on top of our current physical health crisis, it’s interesting to see an app that tackles this very serious situation in a seemingly light-hearted way.

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COVID creates the perfect opportunity for cereal company Magic Spoon

When it comes to shopping in a pandemic, it turns out people crave two things: comfort and convenience. It’s why, a year after launching its direct-to-consumer, guilt-free “kids” cereal for grown-ups, Magic Spoon’s business is booming.

“We’ve seen a meaningful uptick in demand from new customers just discovering us or finally giving us a try,” says cofounder Gabi Lewis. “It’s also existing customers, who maybe ate a bowl in the morning before work but now that they’re at home, are eating another bowl in the afternoon for a snack, so consumption has gone up.”

Last April, Lewis and his cofounder Greg Sewitz first launched Magic Spoon to tap into millennials’ nostalgia for the kiddie cereals of their youth while staying true to their commitment to eat healthy as adults. They took flavors that mimicked such classics as Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes—and delivered it in a high-protein, low-carb, and no-sugar cereal. Combined with a packaging and product design that was highly Instagrammable, Magic Spoon’s popularity took off immediately, and it hasn’t slowed down.

In terms of the cereal market overall, he thinks Magic Spoon isn’t taking market share away from traditional cereal, but rather adding to it by bringing new customers back to the category. “Many of our customers weren’t eating cereal before we came along,” he says. “Maybe they did years ago, then stopped and instead started eating Greek yogurt or smoothies or oatmeal, or any number of healthy breakfast alternatives. So I think a lot of our growth has come from other categories, bringing them back to cereal, and I think it’s helping to build the cereal category as a whole.”

Just as many of us have become more accustomed to videoconferencing than we ever imagined, Lewis sees a similar shift in consumer behavior around buying groceries online. “Obviously there’s been this uptick because of people stuck at home and stocking up, and we’re under no illusion of that lasting forever,” he says. “But there are people buying food online right now who just didn’t before all this. I don’t think all that is just going to go away, and a good portion of those people will continue to do it once this is all over.”

Why it’s Hot:

As people seek alternatives to grocery store visits and grocery delivery becomes increasingly scarce, DTC food brands are well positioned for the current pandemic (especially food brands that bring people a sense of comfort and nostalgia). DTC brands have already become more popular in the past few years – it will be interesting to see if the pandemic accelerated this trend.

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Need a haircut? This virtual barbershop and salon can help.

Hiring a professional to cut your hair during quarantine isn’t an option, but a virtual barbershop is offering the next best thing: video conferences and guidance from a professional.

The website You Probably Need a Haircut lets people book a video call with a professional barber starting at $18. It’s a win-win for everyone, according to founder Greg Isenberg.

The site currently works with barbers and hairdressers whom clients can choose when they book an appointment. While people will need to have the tools at home, the expertise from a professional will hopefully help turn a potential haircut failure into a success.

“A barbershop is a warm and inviting place, and we aim to re-create that in your home. People can expect friendly banter from their new barber and hand-holding throughout the cutting process,” Isenberg said. “When you book an appointment, you get a Zoom link so the hand-holding is done via video chat.”

You Probably Need a Haircut gives most of the fee to barbers and hairdressers, but takes a $3.60 cut to help pay for the fees of running the website. There’s also an option to leave a $5 tip.

Why it’s Hot:

While simple, this is a really smart concept for the millions of people struggling with self grooming under lock down. There’s also the added benefit of being able to support hairdressers and barbers who can’t work in their normal capacity.

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Help NASA map coral reefs from home

Coral reefs are shrinking. That’s bad news for wildlife. Millions of species call coral reefs their homes, and coral itself is a cluster of tiny aquatic animals. And it’s bad news for humans, too — scientists’ analyses of organisms in and around coral have contributed to breakthroughs in a variety of medical treatments. NASA has taken some of its technology originally meant to photograph stars and adapted it for studying the ocean — but it needs the public’s help in sorting through the data. The agency created a game in which players analyze 3D images to spot and categorize coral reefs, and those actions train NASA’s supercomputer to eventually do the same.

The game, NeMO-Net, uses photos from NASA’s imaging equipment, which it has deployed on drones and aircraft. These “fluid-lensing” cameras compensate for the optical distortions created by the ripples and waves of water over coral reefs, creating a clearer image. Players learn about different kinds of coral and then point out where they see the reefs in the 3D renderings. As more people play, the more the supercomputer’s neural network learns. Eventually, it should be able to sort through the photos itself, with no need for human assistance.

As threatened ecosystems, it’s important that scientists gain a more thorough understanding of coral reefs. By creating a map of the reefs, scientists will hopefully be able to find a way to preserve them, despite the damage done by rising ocean temperatures, pollution and other detriments. Kids and adults alike can help out by playing NeMO-Net, which is currently available on iOS and Mac, and will be coming to Android in the future.

Why it’s hot:

It’s not just exciting that we can train AI to help us save coral reefs – with most of the country effectively in lock down, this is a perfect time to put that cooped up energy to productive use.

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Allbirds donates to healthcare workers

On Friday, Allbirds posted a message ton its Instagram saying the brand would gift its signature Wool Runners to medical professionals working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and inviting them to get in touch.

On Monday, founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger shared a second update, in the form of a letter to its audience. “We’ve been completely blown away by the response to our U.S. healthcare donation last week,” they wrote. “Our team has been working overtime to get back to all of the requests, and we’ve distributed $500,000 in shoes since Friday.”

Allbirds has since introduced a “buy-one-give-one” option to U.S.-based shoppers: Purchase its shoes online, and the brand will split the cost of donating a pair of Wool Runners to a healthcare professional who could use them; you can also choose to donate a pair at checkout.

Why it’s hot: 

From their sustainable products to open sourcing their sustainable formulas, Allbirds has built a name for themselves as a philanthropic company looking to better the world. This effort is a natural extension of that mission and is something that will increase brand affinity for the future.

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Chipotle Virtual Lunch

In line with social distancing, on March 16th, Chipotle Mexican Grill launched Chipotle Together sessions. For one week, each day at lunchtime (11am Pacific Time/2pm Eastern Standard Time) there will be an opportunity for people to connect with the brand via videoconferencing site Zoom.

Each session will include Chipotle-inspired presentations, celebrity appearances, Q&As and the chance to win free voucher codes for online delivery.

Every day, the restaurant chain will be posting a link to the virtual hangout session on its Twitter account, where up to 3,000 people may join the event.

The first session was hosted by reality star Colton Underwood, who appeared on The Bachelor in 2019.

In addition to its Chipotle Together sessions, the brand is offering its customers free deliveries on all orders over $10 via its app and website throughout March 2020. Chipotle is also responding to COVID-19 by introducing dedicated hygiene teams in its kitchens, specific ingredient stations for online orders, tamper-evident packaging, and an in-app delivery tracker to give customers step-by-step real-time updates.

Why it’s Hot:

People are looking to connect even more with the rise of social distancing. And, as restaurants struggle to stay afloat amidst coronavirus fears, this effort by Chipotle could help keep them top of mind with customers.

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Tackling the opioid epidemic with digital rehab

A new company called Boulder is launching a digital rehab program. Boulder uses both medication like buprenorphine and peer support to help people recover from opioid addiction. It has raised $10.5 million in venture funding, led by Tusk Venture Partners, and signed a deal with the insurer Premera. The payer plans to give its members in Alaska access to Boulder in April and eventually expand to all two million members across the Northwest. Premera will pay Boulder a monthly flat rate for each patient, so the company can tailor each treatment program to the individual and keep it going for as long as they need.

Telemedicine and online drug prescription represent an opportunity to reach people suffering from opioid addiction on their own schedule. Instead of traveling to a dedicated rehab center that may not be close to home, a patient can come to Boulder through a hospital. Once inside the hospital, a doctor hands their patient a tablet loaded with Boulder’s software, and the patient conducts their first session over video there.

Over video chat, a doctor will then determine whether the person is an appropriate candidate for treatment with Suboxone, a medication that combines both buprenorphine, an opioid pain reliever, and naloxone, which blocks opioid effects. If they are, the doctor calls in the prescription to a local pharmacy and then rush-ships patients a kit with Narcane, a nasal spray version of naloxone that can bring someone back from an overdose, spit tubes for tests, and educational pamphlets to the patient. In an initial pilot in Southern Oregon, 85% of 100 patients stuck with the treatment program for eight months; 0nly one person went to the hospital because of relapse in that time.

Once a physician determines a person’s Suboxone regimen, patients are expected to conduct spit tests to check that they are adhering to their medication and to see if they’re using other substances. While on video conference with their physician, a patient spits into a tube, which they then mail in. Alternatively, the patient records themselves doing the spit test and then mails in the sample. Unlike in other programs, where a relapse might get a patient kicked out, at Boulder, if a person relapses, the doctor adjusts the treatment accordingly. The hope is that by taking a less punitive approach, patients won’t be inclined to send in fake results.

Though addiction treatment in general is not standardized, typical inpatient programs last 90 days or less, and outpatient programs can vary even more. Where a digital approach has the biggest potential is allowing physicians to create personalized programs in terms of the duration of peer support, dosage of medication, and how long a person stays on medication.

In addition to a doctor and medication, patients have access to a care advocate, who, much like a social worker, helps a patient with housing or finding a new job, and a peer coach, who offers emotional support as the patient works through sobriety. Unlike most treatment programs, this one has no end date. Patients can continue to be on Suboxone for as long as they feel necessary to mitigate their addiction.

Boulder does not have psychiatrists or therapists on its staff of care providers, but its insurance partner Premera plans to play a role in connecting patients to behavioral health near them. In addition to matching them to existing care providers, the company is hoping to fund new behavioral health facilities in rural communities through a series of grants worth a combined $15.7 million.

Why it’s Hot:

While the program is new and its efficacy remains to be seen, at a glance this looks like a really smart digital solution for a nationwide problem. For Premera, they stand to position themselves as a premier insurance provider for addiction treatment, which is a growing market. For Boulder, they could play a key role in shifting how we approach the opioid epidemic.

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Cadbury EATertainment

To promote the return of its Creme Eggs, Cadbury has launched a Netflix-style streaming service in the UK and Ireland.

All content on the EATertainment website contains references to the chocolate Easter treat that are both subtle and obvious. The programs include Girl Vs. Goo,  which document host Jahannah James’s quest to seek out ‘the best Creme Egg dishes in the country’, Armeggeddon, a mini film following three friends hiding away in an underground bunker and The Gooru, a series of Creme Egg-inspired yoga classes.

Anyone can register to gain limited access to the site by entering their personal details. But to watch all the content and enter a competition to win up to £10,000 ($13,450), users need to purchase a Cadbury Creme Egg and upload a picture of it to the website.

Cadbury has also partnered with Amazon as part of its Creme Egg promotional campaign. Amazon has written and produced two pieces of Creme Egg-themed content, which it is hosting on its Prime Video streaming hub to drive viewers to the EATertainment site. Meanwhile, the EATertainment site directs visitors to a branded page on Amazon where they can purchase a box of 48 Creme Eggs. Cadbury is also handing out £5 ($6.50) Amazon vouchers to 1000 people as part of its competition.

To promote its EATentertainment site, on 23 January Cadbury is throwing a Creme Egg-themed culinary event in London’s Leicester Square. For 24 hours Cadbury will host a Facebook Live stream of visitors sampling dishes from Creme Egg spaghetti to Creme Egg curry. The brand will also inviting people to star of their very own Creme Egg movie.

Why it’s Hot: In addition to being a fun content marketing activation, this is also a really well thought out consumer journey. An undertaking this massive truly becomes worth it when you factor in the data collection component and the direct link to purchase.

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There’s a Dracula on that billboard…

To mark the arrival of the series Dracula, BBC erected two billboards in both London and Birmingham that don’t directly depict the count himself, but through a clever play of shadows and stakes, see him emerge as a haunting ghost.

During the day passers-by will notice that the billboards are stabbed with stakes – alluding to the action of vampire killers. Yet, at night a light at the side turns on, and viewers realize the stakes have been placed with the utmost intention so that their shadows recreate the face of the TV series’ blood-thirsty villain.

To heighten the spooky billboard, beneath stands a ‘break in case of vampires’ box that contains a pointed wooden stake, ready to stab with.

Why it’s Hot: Innovation doesn’t always need to be a new digital platform or tool – sometimes the most interesting innovations come from rethinking how we use traditional channels.

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Apple Card investigated for gender bias

Apple’s tech-oriented credit card is at the heart of a new investigation into alleged gender discrimination.

New York state regulators have announced an investigation into Goldman Sachs, the bank that issues the Apple Card, after a series of viral tweets from a consumer who shared the vastly different credit limits that were issued to him and his wife when they both applied for the card.

The NYSDFS was first tipped off by a viral Twitter thread from tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson, begun on Nov. 7. He detailed how his card’s credit limit was 20 times higher than his wife’s, even though she has a higher credit score and they file joint tax returns. Hansson referred to the Apple Card as a “sexist program” and said that its over-reliance on a “biased” algorithm did not excuse discriminatory treatment.

After his complaints on Twitter, Hansson found his wife’s Apple Card’s credit limit was increased to match his. However, Hansson’s frustration was not only with the credit line issue, but also how customer support is trained to handle the accusation of gender bias: blame the algorithm.

Hansson’s complaints were even echoed by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, who responded to Hansson’s tweet, saying “the same thing happened to us.” Wozniak said that his credit limit was 10 times higher than what his wife had, even though they did not have any separate assets or accounts. In his view, Apple should “share responsibility” for the problem.

Others shared similar stories…

The CEO of Goldman Sachs denied wrongdoing on Monday, stating unequivocally that “we have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender.” He added that the company would be open to re-evaluating credit limits for those who believe their credit line is lower than their credit history would suggest it should be.

Superintendent of the NYSDFS Linda Lacewell said Sunday in a statement that state law bans discrimination against protected classes of individuals, “which means an algorithm, as with any other method of determining creditworthiness, cannot result in disparate treatment for individuals based on age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or other protected characteristics.” She added that this “is not just about looking into one algorithm” but also about working with the tech community more broadly to “make sure consumers nationwide can have confidence that the algorithms that increasingly impact their ability to access financial services do not discriminate.”

Why it’s Hot:

Apple and Goldman Sachs may blame “the algorithm,” but ultimately that algorithm was created by humans – and that excuse doesn’t cut it with customers. As we increasingly rely on algorithms and AI, how do we ensure they’re built without our innate biases?

Sources: Time, Mashable

The jet lag app you never knew you needed

Introducing Timeshifter: an easy-to-use, straightforward app that helps people fight jet lag. Users simply enter in their full flight details (including multi-leg flights, stopovers), chronotype (morning person or a night owl), along with their individual sleep patterns. The latter is composed of your preferred bedtime/wake-up times as well as any other favorite aids, like melatonin or coffee intake.

Timeshifter then instantly delivers a personalized sleep schedule. It’s a full plan accompanied by push notification alerts like “avoid caffeine for the next 6 hours,” “expose yourself to light starting in 30 minutes,” or “take melatonin.” One can start it three days in advance of one’s flight or up until a minute before take-off, though the plan changes depending on advance lead time. The service costs $10 per jet lag plan or $24.99 for an annual subscription.

“Our plans have a practicality filter, where the advice fits with what you can really achieve in the real world,” says Dr. Steve Lockley, a neuroscientist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The renowned expert in circadian rhythms and former NASA consultant developed the Timeshifter app algorithm after a decade of devising custom jet lag plans for Formula 1 drivers and astronauts.

The app is unique in that it’s entirely based on sleep neuroscience and focused on shifting one’s internal clock forward. As Timeshifter cofounder and CEO Mickey Beyer-Clausen, explains, beating jet lag involves moving one’s circadian cycle to the new time zone as soon as (feasibly) possible. But it’s not one-size-fits-all. Based on the information provided by each user, Timeshifter could have hundreds of different versions of the same trip, depending on sleep patterns or even when they started using the app.

The app also strives to make actions attainable based on your schedule. “So if you’re asked to avoid light, it doesn’t mean being in complete darkness or closing your eyes. It means being exposed to less light than [usual],” explains Lockley. “There’s no point in advising you go to bed at 7:00 PM because the chances are you’re not really gonna do that.”

While several other jet lag apps exist, such as Jet Lag Rooster, they do not base circadian rhythm on personalized details. Others, like Uplift, recommend timed acupressure to prevent jet lag.

Why it’s Hot:

This is an awesome use of technology and human knowledge. It would have been an amazing piece of technology for a modern travel brand to create to build a more holistic user experience. I could also see travel brands like Away including a trial for this app with a purchase of their suitcases.

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Your Google Home / Alexa could spy on you

By now, the privacy threats posed by Amazon Alexa and Google Home are common knowledge. Workers for both companies routinely listen to audio of users—recordings of which can be kept forever—and the sounds the devices capture can be used in criminal trials.

Now, there’s a new concern: malicious apps developed by third parties and hosted by Amazon or Google. The threat isn’t just theoretical. Whitehat hackers at Germany’s Security Research Labs developed eight apps—four Alexa “skills” and four Google Home “actions”—that all passed Amazon or Google security-vetting processes. The skills or actions posed as simple apps for checking horoscopes, with the exception of one, which masqueraded as a random-number generator. Behind the scenes, these “smart spies,” as the researchers call them, surreptitiously eavesdropped on users and phished for their passwords.

The malicious apps had different names and slightly different ways of working, but they all followed similar flows. A user would say a phrase such as: “Hey Alexa, ask My Lucky Horoscope to give me the horoscope for Taurus” or “OK Google, ask My Lucky Horoscope to give me the horoscope for Taurus.” The eavesdropping apps responded with the requested information while the phishing apps gave a fake error message. Then the apps gave the impression they were no longer running when they, in fact, silently waited for the next phase of the attack.

SRLabs eventually took down all four apps demoed. As with most skills and actions, users didn’t need to download anything. Simply saying the proper phrases into a device was enough for the apps to run.

There’s little or no evidence third-party apps are actively threatening Alexa and Google Home users now, but the SRLabs research suggests that possibility is by no means far-fetched.

 Why it’s Hot:
This is potentially very, very scary. With all of the backlash around Facebook, it seems inevitable that voice devices will soon face similar scrutiny. What safety measures will they take to ensure this never happens in real life?

Blockchain Meets Broadway

Buying tickets for a Broadway show can involve a lot of unwelcome drama, so it’s not surprising that some of the theater industry’s biggest players are looking for ways to make ticket buying more secure. One possible solution to ticket fraud is blockchain technology, which has a ledger system that allows new transactions to be recorded but not erased. And now the Shubert Organization, the biggest theater operator on Broadway, is giving it a try.

The organization, through its Telecharge and Shubert Ticketing division, has teamed up with a Boston-based startup called True Tickets, which offers a mobile ticketing solution that runs on IBM’s blockchain platform. The startup was one of two companies selected to take part in this summer’s inaugural Broadway Tech Accelerator—the results of which included pilot programs aimed at refining the ideas.

True Tickets’ pilot with Shubert will begin next year and will integrate the startup’s digital ticketing service into “targeted components” of Shubert’s ticket-selling businesses, including Telecharge.com and Broadway Inbound (its group discounts service), among others. The details are a little vague, but the companies say they hope the pilot will help reduce the risk of fraud and that buyers who have tickets sent to their phones through the service can be “guaranteed” that they’re real.

Why it’s Hot:

For years we’ve been hearing about how blockchain would change the future – is the future finally here? This technology could have a huge impact on all ticketed events, providing transparency and helping to eliminate illegal reselling.

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KitKat Kranes

In an effort to cut down on plastic waste, KitKat has changed the packaging of its chocolate bars in Japan.

Rather than using plastic, the Nestlé brand is wrapping its chocolate treats in high strength paper that is both rain and snow resistant. The packaging is fully recyclable and has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

KitKat is also encouraging its customers to use the wrappers for other purposes like writing messages or creating origami shapes and figures. The packaging includes instructions on how to make origami paper cranes.

The initiative is predicted to save around 380 tons of plastic packaging annually, according to the brand.

Why it’s Hot:

Actions speak louder than words. With conversations around sustainability and environmental protection continuing to grow, taking the steps to better your products goes a lot further than a big flashy spot about “going green.” Plus, adding the origami tutorial to the packaging brings added value to the product.

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Mattel’s Gender-Neutral Doll

On Wednesday, Mattel released a line of customizable, gender-inclusive Barbie-style dolls called “Creatable World.”

The dolls don’t carry traditional feminine or masculine traits. Carefully manicured features betray no obvious gender: the lips are not too full, the eyelashes not too long and fluttery, the jaw not too wide. There are no Barbie-like breasts or broad, Ken-like shoulders. Each doll in the Creatable World series looks like a slender 7-year-old with short hair, but each comes with a wig of long, lustrous locks and a wardrobe befitting any fashion-conscious kid: hoodies, sneakers, graphic T-shirts in soothing greens and yellows, along with tutus and camo pants.

The line alsooffers dolls with a range of skin tones. This customization means children can play with a toy that better represents how they look.

For years, millennial parents have pushed back against “pink aisles” and “blue aisles” in toy stores in favor of gender-neutral sections, often in the name of exposing girls to the building blocks and chemistry kits that foster interest in science and math but are usually categorized as boys’ toys. Major toy sellers have listened, thanks to the millennial generation’s unrivaled size, trend-setting ability and buying power. Last year, Mattel did away with “boys” and “girls” toy divisions in favor of nongendered sections: dolls or cars, for instance.

Why it’s Hot:

After decades of criticism for reinforcing female stereotypes with Barbie, Mattel has finally created something that aligns with society’s ever-evolving views on gender. While the line has already earned its fair share of criticism, there is also huge reward potential among more progressive parents (a growing group as more millennials and Gen Z-ers have children).

As marketers, we need to be aware of shifting perceptions when creating content for younger audiences. They’re growing up in a much more sensitive and inclusive environment, which means relying on old tropes and assumed gender roles really won’t fly with them.

Sources: Time, Mashable

Instagram nips at cosmetic surgery and diet posts

Instagram has announced that it will restrict users under the age of 18 from seeing posts that promote select weight-loss products and cosmetic surgery procedures, while the company will also ban some types of ads that promote unrealistic “get thin quick” products entirely.

From now the company will restrict users under the age of 18 from seeing any Instagram posts that promote weight-loss products or types of cosmetic surgery that also have an incentive to buy or are accompanied by a price for the product shown in the post. Posts do not need to be from the product’s account to be eligible for the ban. Any influencer who, for example, shows a sachet of “weight loss” tea in a post and urges their followers to buy it would find that post will not be shown to under-18’s.

The company also said it will remove posts entirely if it “makes a miraculous claim about certain diet or weight-loss products, and is linked to a commercial offer such as a discount code.”

Why it’s Hot:

As a platform that’s largely driven by unrealistic portrayals of influencers’ lives, how much impact will this “ban” really have on the Instagram experience? Are they taking a cue from Pinterest in taking a moral stance here? Is it too little, too late?

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Soap lathering up social good

BECỌ, a social enterprise that makes environmentally-friendly toiletries, is asking businesses to hire more job applicants with disabilities.

Around 80% of BECỌ employees are either visually impaired or physically disadvantaged. However, according to the brand, 1.1 million disabled people are still struggling to find work in the UK.

To address this problem and incite change, BECỌ created the campaign #StealOurStaff that launched earlier this month. The brand turned the packaging of its soap products into resumes. Each soap box and label showcases the name, job role, skills and headshot of one of its employees accompanied with the hashtag #StealOurStaff. The products are currently available for purchase in Boots, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – three major UK retailers.

BECỌ also also wrote an open letter that challenged employers to take a stand and change attitudes about hiring people with disabilities.

To promote the campaign, BECỌ created a video featuring its employees talking about their jobs. The video humorously lampooned traditional TV audio descriptions in ads.

Why it’s Hot:

This campaign is a win for the brand on all fronts: they’re able to sell product while touting their company’s core belief (plus, customers get to feel good by supporting them and buying). At a time when brands are trying to show customers they care, BECO is doing more than just talking about social good – social good is build into the fiber of their company.

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The Coke Challenge… Kind of

It’s a testament to the staying power of the Pepsi Challenge —first introduced in 1975—that random pedestrians aren’t freaked out by bubbly strangers asking them to eat unlabeled food. Instead, the offer evokes a giddiness at being selected for such an important task.

So the people chosen for a recent “Coke Challenge” were understandably intrigued, even excited at the prospect of learning a bit more about their own tastes. Instead, they got a brush with death.

The “coke” in this case was, of course, cocaine—one baggie filled with pure powder, and the other containing cocaine laced with enough fentanyl to kill anyone who snorted it. Cocaine is increasingly being cut with the synthetic opioid to increase its effects, but that is driving overdose deaths. In 2017, the CDC attributed more than 7,500 deaths to cocaine laced with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids.

Fentanyl tampering can’t be detected by sight, smell, or taste, so recreational drug users take a risk every time. They’re also in more danger than regular drug users, because they typically have no tolerance to opioids.

Like the real Pepsi Challenge, though, the head-to-head comparison was a marketing tactic, created by DanceSafe, a U.S.-based non-profit that sells fentanyl test strips they say can detect the presence of the drug. The organization’s focus is on safety and education in the electronic dance community and is known for bringing adulterant screeners to raves that can check for unexpected tampering. DanceSafe is neither for or against drug use, so there’s no judgment in the campaign, just a bit of humor, evident in the tagline, “Know before you blow.”

Rather than taking a staunch anti-drug approach, the campaign focuses on reducing potential harm to people who choose to use recreational drugs. The video of the challenge was released in time for International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

Why it’s Hot:

Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you just need to re-frame it (re-spoke it? re-mount it? cars, Idk). Part of what makes this execution so relevant is it takes something everybody knows (the Pepsi Challenge) and turns it on its head. Grounding something foreign (fentanyl) in a cultural known (taste testing) lends credibility and lightheartedness to a topic that can seem daunting.

Culturally, this product also fits into a new attitude surrounding drugs. With the opioid epidemic continuing to grow and fatalities rising, gone are the days of “just say no” and “this is your brain on drugs” (cue cracking eggs) – the priority with products like DanceSafe and Naloxone is trying to reduce overdoses when people use drugs. Question: Will this new mindset surrounding drugs have any halo effect on the medical field as a whole?

Source: AdAge

Amazon Prime Video will stream Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty fashion show

After the Fall/Winter 2019 collection of Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show debuts during New York Fashion Week, the show will be available to stream exclusively for Amazon Prime Video subscribers on Sept. 20 in more than 200 countries.

The Amazon Prime Video special will also include an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show, which will consist of “performances from some of the hottest acts in music” as well as feature models, actors and dancers wearing styles from the collection, per Amazon’s press release.

Why it’s Hot:

Potential Retail Tie-In: There is a huge opportunity for the brand to follow up fashion show viewership with product communications through Amazon Prime, directly tying hand raisers to product purchasing.

Inclusivity is IN: Victoria’s Secret cancelled its annual televised fashion show in May, after the broadcast hit a new ratings low on ABC (likely due in part to their CMO’s very unpopular comments in November – he also recently resigned). The growing popularity of Savage X Fenty is indicative of a larger trend – in the wake of the body positivity and inclusivity movements, brands who embrace diversity are poised to take the lead.

Source: RetailDive, The Hollywood Reporter

Print Gets Targeted

Hearst is beginning to roll out MagMatch, a service that translates online behaviors into targeted print ads.

By tracking what readers are doing online, MagMatch will allow Hearst to create personalized ads for subscribers of its magazines. For example, if a Marie Claire subscriber’s online behaviors (searching, reading, clicking on ‘buy’ buttons) suggest an interest in a particular beauty product, Hearst could work with the brand of that product to deliver a targeted ad that appears in that reader’s next issue of Marie Claire.

For subscribed readers, that could look like an ad that addresses them by their name, which is the route that skincare company StriVectin took in the latest issue of Elle as the first brand to buy into the ad offering. The ad (shown above) includes a brief message from Elle and is addressed to the magazine subscriber alongside a picture of StriVectin spokeswoman Lauren Hutton.

Subscribers don’t even need to be logged onto the magazines’ sites for Hearst to capture their first-party data: the company anonymously matches their behavior using third parties.

Why it’s Hot:

Print has come under fire for its lack of targeting capabilities for decades, but will this new tool be enough? While it’s undeniably a step up from the print of the past, these new ads can only be targeted to subscribers, which is a dwindling community. Plus, the extensive lead time for print means people could be served ads for a product they were looking at months prior. For new product releases in specific categories (ex. beauty), however, this tool could be helpful.

Source: Contagious, Adweek

 

Mayonnaise + Leftovers = Gourmet Restaurant?

Unilever-owned mayonnaise brand Hellmann’s is so familiar that it can get overlooked in the fridge, along with other ingredients that often get thrown away when we don’t think we can use them.

In the brand’s newest campaign, Hellmann’s highlights the food waste caused by unused leftovers. To prove that mayonnaise can be a key ingredient that turns leftovers into a meal, the agency opened a temporary restaurant in São Paulo, Brazil: The Restaurant With No Food.

Diners were sent Hellman’s branded cool-bags to bring their fridge leftovers, and invited to dine for free at the restaurant. A handful of celebrity chefs then created gourmet meals from the ingredients and Hellman’s mayonnaise. Following the meal, Hellmann’s gave them the recipes for what they had been served.

During its two-day activation, the campaign generated more than 200 news reports and 50 million impressions. Sales of Hellmann’s went up by 8% and it’s estimated that over 2,700 ingredients were saved. The Restaurant With No Food also received an official endorsement from the UN World Food Programme, and Hellmann’s plans to repeat the initiative in other key markets in Europe this year.

Why it’s hot:

This campaign is a perfect example of what a good insight can do. The brand likely saw the decline in mayonnaise purchases, but this unique insight around food waste allowed them to unlock a solution to the problem in a new way. Viewing their business challenge through a wider lens than just “nobody’s buying our mayonnaise” allowed Hellmann’s to tap into a larger cultural conversation.

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Burger King Sweden: Meat Roulette

Burger King Sweden recently released two plant-based burgers, the Rebel Whopper and Rebel Chicken King.

To introduce the burgers, and to show customers that plant-based burgers make convincing meat substitutes, the food retailer created 50/50 Menu. Customers who order a Whopper or Crispy Chicken Burger from the 50/50 Menu could instead receive the Rebel Whopper and Rebel Chicken King. Customers can then guess if they are eating a plant or meat-based burger, and they can find out if they have guessed correctly by scanning the box using the Burger King app. There is no reward for guessing correctly, but the 50/50 Menu is cheaper.

Since the campaign (which lasts three weeks) launched on Monday, July 7th, 60% of customers have guessed correctly and 40% have been unable to tell the difference.

Why it’s Hot: 

As the conversation around plant-based meat substitutes continues to grow, Burger King’s activation successfully answers one of skeptics’ main concerns: do they actually taste good? The activation’s challenge-style approach and simple tech integration make trying plant-based burgers fun, even for those who aren’t on the plant-based bandwagon.

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Havaianas Makes a Shoppable Boardwalk Mural

For their latest campaign, “Step into Summer,” Havaianas collaborated with renowned street artist, Buff Monster, to transform the Venice Beach Boardwalk into an immersive art installation and shoppable AI experience.

The activation began with a 15′ x 85′ mural at Venice Beach, which was crafted from rubber to correspond with Havianas’ rubber-soled sandals. The brand then encouraged people to step onto the mural and scan their favorite part of the artwork via a microsite on mobile. The microsite uses Google Vision AI technology to identify that section of the mural, then it matches consumers with corresponding sandal styles to purchase.

Influencer partnerships helped to promote and support the activation.

Why it’s hot: OOH isn’t just about billboards anymore – it’s an opportunity to have people interact with your brand in new ways. Pairing mobile with OOH also opens the door for follow-up interactions, helping brands drive consumers down the marketing funnel.

Another thought – this is also a great way to fast track toward personalization / customization for new customers.